Deal paves the way for McDonald's

The Denver Post

18th April 1996

Months of often bitter negotiations over the fate of a proposed McDonald's in Denver's West Washington Park ended yesterday when officials released details of what they called a "win-win" compromise between the neighborhood and the fast-food chain.

Under the agreement, the restaurant will open late this summer as planned at South Lincoln Street and East Alameda Avenue. But it will be situated on the parcel so that it fronts Alameda and Broadway - and keeps its back turned to Lincoln, a mostly residential street

The compromise doesn't please everyone. And it includes a $25,000 payout from the Denver Urban Renewal Authority.

But officials said the deal is as good as could be expected, especially considering the Gordian knot of competing interests that have tangled in the case.

"Everybody gave up something," said Jennifer Moulton, Denver's director of planning and community development. "But hopefully, they've also got something to be happy about."

The plan has several key provisions:

Officials said the DURA money shouldn't be considered a subsidy, because it already was earmarked for improvements at the Broadway-Alameda intersection. DURA Executive Director Susan Powers said the funds were left over from the $45 million DURA-backed Broadway Marketplace project and always had been intended for use at that corner.

"I'm not creating money to solve the problem," Powers said. Ironically, the compromise site plan is a near carbon-copy of one concocted more than a year ago by the Denver Department of Public Works, said Dennis Royer, the city's chief traffic engineer.

"This is not a brand-new idea," Royer said. When it was first presented, however, neither the neighborhood nor those on the side of the restaurant were willing to discuss it.

"I can't tell you how delighted I am this is over with," he said. The compromise is far from a complete victory for West Washington Park homeowners, many of whom initially refused to even talk about allowing McDonald's in. Last November, the neighborhood asked the Denver City Council to "downzone" the site retroactively in a move to kill the restaurant deal.

The homeowners had the support of Mayor Wellington Webb, who announced in January that he was "completely and totally opposed" to the McDonald's.

But otherwise, they were playing with a weak hand. Among other things, they faced opposition from Denver's powerful real estate agents who said the downzoning would set a horrible precedent and undermine basic property rights.

Last month, after it became clear that the downzoning request had no chance of passing, the association began negotiating in earnest with McDonald's and the site owners. Professional mediators recruited by the Mayor's office of Neighborhood Reponse led several weeks of secret talks and secured the compromise.
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